Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: December 26, 2001

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS VACATIONS, the tour operator arm of Universal Orlando, for the first time is able to process agent bookings for packages through the four major GDSs as well as over the Internet. Agents can book components including theme park tickets; air seats on four carriers, with the best pricing, whether bulk or scheduled; hotel accommodations, and Alamo car rentals, according to Bryan Shilling, vice president and general manager. The GDS code is UNI and the Web sites for booking are www.vacationaccess.com and www.universalstudiosvacations.com. To encourage agents to switch from phone bookings to electronic, there is a 1 percentage point commission bonus, making the basic commission 11%. The bonus will apply to all electronic bookings made between Jan. 1 and March 31 regardless of travel date and it will will be added for those agencies who already qualify for volume overrides, Shilling said. With this service, Universal Studios Vacations is competitive with other Florida tour operators offering electronic booking options, he added.

WHILE 2002 is yet to begin, July 11 to 27, 2003, is on the minds of Daytona Beach visitor interests, as those will be the dates for the next Florida International Festival, featuring the London Symphony Orchestra. The festival is held every two years. The 2001 festival drew some 44,000 attendees at various events. The 39 ticketed concerts of the London Symphony and other groups, such as an Irish band, according to the festival box office, drew 28,473 patrons from 33 states and four foreign countries. An additional 40 free events were attended by 12,624. Three other related events staged by various organizations drew 3,006 people.

THE WYNDHAM Casa Marina Resort, Key West, reopened its historic restaurant, Flagler's, after an extensive $2 million renovation. Flagler's was converted from three tiers to a single level. Hardwood floors and ceiling fans were added to restore the original feel of the 1920's. Breakfast, Sunday brunch and dinner are served, with seafood, steaks and chops as the dinner specialties. For information, call (305) 293-6215.

SPA PALAZZO opened recently at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Fashioned after the legendary Alhambra Palace, the 30,000-square-foot sanctuary of health and rejuvenation features 22 treatment suites, an opulent wet room, an eclectic menu of spa treatments, sunning terraces and an additional 10,000 square feet of palatial gardens containing waterfall whirlpools and a spa pool with underwater music. For information, call (888) 495-BOCA or view the Web site, www.bocaresort.com.

AIRTRAN will launch daily nonstop service on March 5 from Newport News/Williamsburg, Va., to Orlando.

AN EXPANDED Polk County Vacation Planner is available from Central Florida's Polk County Visitors & Convention Bureau. The county's major attraction is Cypress Gardens. Among additions to the new vacation planner is a section called Take a Tour, which includes sample itineraries such as a four-day Polk County Tour, a two-day Celebrate Nature Tour, a two-day Arts and Architecture Tour and a two-day Garden Tour. For copies, call the bureau at (863) 298-7565 or (800) 828-7655 or visit the Web site at www.sunsational.org.

THE SARASOTA Convention & Visitors Bureau revamped its Web site, www.sarasota.fl.org. As a result, the bureau now offers users the ability to fill out a request for proposal form stating requirements for a meeting or convention. Another enhancement is a vacation builder, whereby desired components in planning a trip such as hotels, attractions and dining outlets can be selected. There is an option to book hotels online as well.

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